Why Gambling on Sports Is Worse Than Juicing

My Whiskerino tweeps on Twitter were arguing yesterday about whether it’s worse to gamble on sports [the Pete Rose offense] or to take performance-enhancing drugs [the Barry Bonds offense]. I meant to blog this last night, but I felt like dogmeat and am just now getting to it on my lunch break.

My argument for this is simple: gambling is an order of magnitude a worse sin. Sport is based around a single premise: everyone is trying to win. Gambling leaves open the possibility that someone is not trying to win. PEDs usage is simply trying to perform above what the body can do on its own—effectively, trying harder.

Let’s address the legal issue quickly: betting on sports is illegal in most locales, and taking most PEDs is a violation of Federal drug statutes. Sure, you can bet legally in Nevada, and you can get a prescription, but routinely those are both skirting the issue of what’s really going on. Both can be seen as legal or illegal acts, so I drive back to the moral underpinning.

Gambling doesn’t have to be throwing a game; it can be wanting to win any particular game more than anything else. Is that wrong? Yes, in some cases it certainly is. Baseball is an easy example: if you have money on the game as the manager, you’re going to run through the bullpen and the bench trying to win that one game, where normally you might see a 10-2 deficit in the third and just announce, “Hey, if anyone wants to pitch in the seventh, here’s your chance.” Baseball management is about maximizing the number of wins during the regular season, which does not necessarily maximize the chance of winning any single game. [Postseason management is all about winning single games, of course. You do stuff in the postseason that you’d never do in July.]

Also, gambling puts the element that someone might not be trying their hardest to win the game, because they have an incentive to lose it. That is far more injurious to the ideals of sport, to me, than someone roiding up to muscle the ball over the fence or taking greenies to stay alert during game eight of a twelve-games-in-twelve-days stretch.

YMMV, but this is the crux of my argument. Please sound off in the comments if you are so compelled. I must now go back to writing a proposal for work …

Baseball Prospectus 2009

Is anyone interested in reading my thoughts on books previously read? I finished Supercapitalism tonight, thanks to endless nagging by leaving a browser tab open to Readernaut [where I am, predictably, gfmorris] and the arrival of BP2k9 on my doorstep today. All in all, I found Reich’s argument to be cogent if, at times, overly labored; I’m not a book reviewer per se, but I reckon that I am a thinker and a person who talks about such things after being informed, so maybe it’s worth reading? I don’t know. Let me know in the comments.

Surging in the ‘nati

Dear ESPN:

I know that it’s totally cliché to write open letters to you on Weblogs. I mean, I was probably doing it back when I ran TOTK. You know, before I had to shave. [Or before I grew the beard and quit shaving.] Anyway: my beloved Cincinnati Reds have won six straight and eight of ten. They’ve somehow dug out of last place and now are sniffing the division “chase”, which in the NL Central is best defined as “the team least averse to finishing over .500”. Sure, the Reds are 60-70 and maybe only have a 1% chance of winning the division title at this point, but … do you think that you could have found a minute or two to air highlights of their sweep of the Marlins in the one-hour Sunday night Baseball Tonight?

No? Okay. Screw you.


The Lure of the Conspiracy Theory

Why are we tempted to believe in conspiracy theories? New Scientist has a theory:

So what kind of thought processes contribute to belief in conspiracy theories? A study I carried out in 2002 explored a way of thinking sometimes called “major event – major cause” reasoning. Essentially, people often assume that an event with substantial, significant or wide-ranging consequences is likely to have been caused by something substantial, significant or wide-ranging.

I gave volunteers variations of a newspaper story describing an assassination attempt on a fictitious president. Those who were given the version where the president died were significantly more likely to attribute the event to a conspiracy than those who read the one where the president survived, even though all other aspects of the story were equivalent.

To appreciate why this form of reasoning is seductive, consider the alternative: major events having minor or mundane causes — for example, the assassination of a president by a single, possibly mentally unstable, gunman, or the death of a princess because of a drunk driver. This presents us with a rather chaotic and unpredictable relationship between cause and effect. Instability makes most of us uncomfortable; we prefer to imagine we live in a predictable, safe world, so in a strange way, some conspiracy theories offer us accounts of events that allow us to retain a sense of safety and predictability.

[Emphasis mine.]

Typically, I scoff at conspiracy theories. [For example, I usually want to go all Buzz Aldrin on moon landing fakers. Crap, I shouldn’t have said that, because now I’m going to draw wacko comments.] But in preparing this post, I had to consider something: I’m one of the people that has bought into the argument made about baseball’s performance-enhancing drugs problem that there had to be an active ignorance on the part of the caretakers of the game to allow all that stuff to happen. I’m now second-guessing this stance.

[HT: Schneier on Security]

Idle Thoughts on the Reds

Today, I was watching the Reds when I had this idle thought:

Thinking that Josh Hamilton : 2007 Reds :: Brandon Phillips : 2006 Reds, in terms of forcing himself into the lineup. Move EdE to 1B!!!

In terms of what I’m thinking here, it’s:

  1. Install Josh Hamilton as the everyday CF.
  2. Move Ryan Freel from CF to 3B.
  3. Move Edwin Encarnacion from 3B to 1B.
  4. Bench the Jeff Conine / Scott Hatteberg platoon.

Now, I’ve been mulling on that more as the afternoon has worn into the evening [and I finished watching the Reds shut out the Cubbies 1-0], and I think that would work, but:

  1. It still has Ryan Freel being an everyday player, and I don’t really think that’s the way for him to be best utilized. I still think he’s best as a super-sub who gets four starts a week while the Reds regularly rest Junior, Dunn, Encarnacion, and Hamilton.
  2. It puts Freel, whose game is hustling and being a pest, at what is a prime power position in MLB. Granted, individual lineup construction on a per-team basis can overlook things like this, especially when you have an outfield of mashers like Dunn, Hamilton, and Griffey. [They’re everything that D-G-Kearns was supposed to be, without all of Austin’s injuries.] But it’s still sub-optimal, even when there’s prior art in terms of Tony Phillips and [more recently] Chone Figgins.
  3. It takes an infield liability at 3B [Encarnacion] and shifts him to 1B, where he’s not really guaranteed to be much better.

So then I had this thought:

  1. Install Hamilton as the everyday LF.
  2. Move Dunn to 1B.

I love the Big Donkey. I’ve had an Adam Dunn batting practice jersey since his first full season in the bigs. I gave him a break when he sulked after Kearnsie was traded last year. [Hey, I was sulking, too, because … who trades two lineup regulars for two relievers and a couple of spare parts, even when those regulars are Kearns and Lopez, guys unlikely to make you really regret the trade in the future?] But as much as I’ve lamented his OF defense in the past, I think he’s improving now, and I wonder how badly he would react to an in-season move to 1B. I think it’s his eventual position—allowing him and Brook Jacoby to focus on his hitting—but I think that he’s the kind of player that can really use an offseason of learning how to move around the bag. I think that Dunn could be the kind of 1B that Derrek Lee is if he put the time and energy into it—he is certainly athletic enough, and working on footwork should be a natural for a former QB—but I think that he needs an offseason to do that.

Yes, yes, there’s Joey Votto to be concerned about down in AAA. Votto may be a stud, but … crap. Hamilton has essentially missed four years of baseball while dealing with his demons, never had played above AA until this season, and is mashing like he’s … well, the #1 pick he was coming out of HS. There’s small sample size to be concerned with—I’m judging his performance on spring training and two weeks in the bigs—but I have this nagging feeling that Hamilton is here to stay. I also think that he deserves the full-season trial to prove that, too. To really get a fair shake—as Phillips got last year—he needs to be in the lineup all the time. That’s going to mean rearranging the deck chairs, and that puts someone over at 1B to displace the platoon and relieve the crowding in the outfield.

Hey, who wants Hatteberg and Conine for a fourth OF who’s a fly-catcher? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Thanks for the Fun, 2006 Reds

With the Reds’ loss to San Diego today, I’m officially giving up on the team’s chances. As such, I have performed my ritual deletion of my Baseball Tonight season pass. Rotowire will be enough for me to keep an eye on the little bit of interest I have in baseball [read: my roto team], but even there, my team has faded just like the real guys on the field. I must say, though; this is the latest I’ve ever canned a BBTN Season Pass.

The good news? The Bengals are 1-0 and look pretty good. I’ll have something to tide me over until UAH’s home hockey season starts. [36 days. Yes, I’m twitching in anticipation.]

One Pair of Underwear?

This story about what major league baseball players pack in their suitcase has to be one of the stranger things I’ve read in a major media outlet.

Shawn Green brings his own soap on every road trip. Mike Cameron never forgets his lavender linen spray and orange-scented spray for the room. Ichiro Suzuki depends on an electric massager that takes up nearly half his suitcase.

And then there’s Detroit closer Todd Jones, who wears only one pair of underwear when the Tigers leave town.

“I don’t pack any underwear,” he said. “I wear it into the park, it gets washed every day and I wear it out of the park. I guess that’s weird. I’m not proud of it, but I’m cutting down on space.”

If Jones was proud of it, I bet he’s not now!

Reds Deal Kearns, Lopez

Bowden heists two everyday Reds for pair of relievers, bag of balls, and the rotting corpse of Royce Clayton.

Wayne Krivsky gets a contract extension, and then he pulls this shit?! [And yes, Alex, you know that I’m far more pissed off about Lopez than I am Kearns. We’ve talked about their relative merits, and you know that I think Lopez is the next Barry Larkin.]